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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Monday, February 8, 2021

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2020 Tour de France | 2020 Giro d'Italia

The audiobook version of The Story of the Tour de France, Volume 1 is available.

For a man to conquer himself is the first and noblest of all victories. - Plato

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Etoile de Bessèges final team reports

We posted the report from overall winner Tim Wellens' Lotto-Soudal team with the results.

Here's the report from third-place Nils Politt's Bora-hansgrohe team:

The 51st edition of Etoile de Bessèges today came to a conclusion with a 10.7 km individual time trial. The first 8 km of the course was flat, followed by a 3 km climb up towards the finish. Patrick Gamper opened the stage for the Raubling-based team, while teammate Nils Politt was the last BORA - hansgrohe rider to start the race against the clock, more than two hours in arrears. Nils reached the finish line with a time of 15:39 minutes and was the best-placed BORA - hansgrohe rider. With this result, the rider from Cologne finished the final stage in 9th place and also moved up to 3rd position in the overall standings. F. Ganna stopped the clock with the winning time of exactly 15 minutes, while T. Wellens was crowned the overall winner of the race.

Final Podium

The final podium, from left: Michal Kwiatkowski (2nd), Tim Wellens (1st) & Nils Politt (3rd). Bettini photo.

From the Finish Line:
"I'm very happy with my third place overall, especially with it being my first race with BORA-hansgrohe. We worked very well together all week and such a start to the new season by the team is to be applauded. The time trial itself was quite hard, especially with the climb up towards the finish, but I managed it well and I'm happy with the performance I delivered in the time trial. Overall, it was a successful race for us, which definitely creates the momentum to continue in this manner." - Nils Politt

"A third place overall is a nice finish to what has been quite a difficult stage race here in France. It took a strong team effort to bring Nils into this position, and that's precisely what the guys accomplished this week. Nils rode brilliantly, we worked out a solid strategy with him, which he was able to execute perfectly. He was one of the fastest on the course and rode sensationally uphill. To achieve ninth place on such a stage, and also in the midst of such strong competition, is worthy of congratulations. Compliments also to the entire team who made this possible. We can be very satisfied with Nils' podium position, as well as the 3rd place of Pascal yesterday." - Christian Pömer, Sports Director

Filippo Ganna's INEOS Grenadiers posted this report:

Filippo Ganna made it two stage wins in two days as the INEOS Grenadiers enjoyed a strong end to Etoile de Bessèges.

The Italian backed up his day in the breakaway on Saturday with the fastest time across the 11-kilometre course, winning the stage by 10 seconds over nearest rival Benjamin Thomas (Groupama-FDJ).

Michal Kwiatkowski also put in a superb ride to climb the GC at the end of the race, jumping up from fourth to second overall in Ales. The Pole ended the race 53 seconds back on overall victor Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal).

Michal Kwiatkowski

Michal Kwiakowski. GettySport photo

The time trial produced some classy rides, with Ethan Hayter's early benchmark holding up brilliantly for third fastest, with Owain Doull also clocking in the eighth fastest time on the day. Sixth place for Kwiato made it four Grenadiers in the top 10 times.

Filippo Ganna:
"It’s been an amazing week. We have finished with two victories in five days, and now Kwiato finishing on the podium. It makes us want to dream even bigger. This victory is an important one for me and I hope to arrive even better in future races. We did some really good training over the winter to arrive here in good shape. The team is happy and I’m happy to continue like this.

"After yesterday my legs were painful but the dream to win again is much bigger than any pain.

"Now we’ll look ahead to the UAE Tour but this is a great way to start the season."

Sixth place Michael Gogl's Qhubeka-Assos team posted this report:

Filippo Ganna (Ineos Grenadiers) won the final stage ITT of Etoile de Besseges while Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal) secured the overall title.

Team Qhubeka Assos put in credible performance in its opening race of the season, the Etoile de Besseges. European champion Giacomo Nizzolo placed 4th & 3rd on stages 1 & 2, respectively. Michael Gogl then infiltrated the race defining breakaway on stage 3, taking 9th on the stage and moved into overall GC contention.

Michael Gogl

Michael Gogl moving up to 6th place in the GC. Qhubeka-Assos photo

Yesterday, an untimely puncture for Gogl put Team Qhubeka Assos on the back foot during the 4th stage, but a good team effort allowed Gogl to limit his losses and held onto 10th overall going into the final 11km time trial stage.

The final race against the clock had riders take on a mostly flat 8km stretch, before ending with a sharp 3km climb to the top of Alès. Gogl, the 10th last rider off, put in a fine performance to stop the clock in 15 minutes and 55 seconds.

This result had Gogl climbing up 4 spots on the overall general classification, finishing in 6th place on GC. A positive result for Team Qhubeka Assos in its debut race of 2021.

The Tour de la Provence is the next race on the teams calendar, and will get underway this coming Thursday.

Here's the report from Odd Christian Eiking's Intermarché–Wanty–Gobert Matériaux team:

This Sunday, the fifth and final stage of the Etoile de Bessèges (1.1, 2-5/02) was organized around Alès, as tradition goes for nearly a decade. An eleven-kilometer long time trial, with a finish at the top of the climb to the Notre-Dame des Mines Sanctuary, meant to be the decider of the French stage race. For Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux, the objective was to secure Odd Christian Eiking's place among the ten best riders of the overall classification. This morning, the Norwegian started in ninth place, exactly 50 seconds behind race leader Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal).

Odd Christian Eiking

Odd Christian Eiking.

In an effort of more than a quarter of an hour, the riders had to deal with a headwind in the first part of the parcours. The 2.5-kilometer ascent presented an average gradient of 5.9%, which is relatively similar to the difficulties encountered by the peloton throughout the week. With a time of 16 minutes 24 seconds, Eiking was able to preserve his place in the first ten in the final standings. He conceded 1'23" to Filippo Ganna (INEOS), who had already won the day before. This is the second time in two races that our Norwegian rider has managed to grab a place in the top ten.

Aike Visbeek (Head of Performance):
"The first time trial of the season was an opportunity to test our equipment and put in practice the warming up program that we had planned. According to our first analysis, we can be happy about the way it panned out. Most important today was the performance of Odd for a good GC. We wanted to rely on his climbing abilities and we can say that he rode a technically good time trial. I feel the team is where it needs to be in February, and we will further work on our TT development at the UAE Tour"

Cameron Meyer retains Australian Road Race Championship crown

Meyer's Team BikeExchange sent me this report:

2019 champion Cameron Meyer pulled off a stunning win to retain the Australian Road Race Championship in a thrilling race in Buninyong.

Cameron Meyer

Cameron Meyer at the 2020 Tour Down Under. Sirotti photo

Team BikeExchange started the race on the front as Damien Howson headed down the road in the early breakaway. He was later joined by teammate Kaden Groves as the group grew to 12 riders, before Alex Edmondson jumped across in a small chase group to take the teams numbers to three at the head of the race.

The breakaway eventually broke down as newly crowned time trial champion Luke Plapp (Inform TMX MAKE) went solo with 60km to go. The 20-year-old opened up a gap of over two minutes with Luke Durbridge leading the chase behind with five laps remaining.

With the gap holding steady, Chris Harper (Team Jumbo-Visma) made his move, and the attack spelled the end for Plapp out front as he was caught with 19km to go. The remains of the peloton weren’t far behind, but both Durbridge and Meyer were distanced over the top of the climb.

Meyer eventually clawed his way back to the chasing group before Durbridge reappeared and drove the chasing group heading onto the final lap. The Durbridge-led chase managed to reel all but one rider back in before the top of the climb, but as fresh attacks began to fly, Meyer and Durbridge were distanced once again.

The duo managed to make it back to the head of the race as the group began to look at each other and despite several attacks, the race came down to a reduced bunch kick for gold. Kelland O’Brien (Inform TMX MAKE) was the first to open up his sprint, but Meyer timed his late charge to perfection, stealing the victory on the line to retain the jersey for another year.

Cameron Meyer:
"Luke Durbridge is unbelievable, somehow we just pulled off a miracle! We thought we were all gone, buried. I don’t know how to explain that! That is a nail-biting race, somehow it panned out. They committed to me, I didn’t feel that good with four to go, but we just dug deep and somehow, we pulled off a miracle.

"That finish is one of the hardest to get right. Everyone’s legless, I’m legless, I probably sprinted at the lowest watts I ever have, but I just picked the right wheels, ran at the right time and the line came at the right moment. To keep the jersey another year! I can’t believe it!

"I thought there was a chance [with 150 metres to go], I know how much it hurts, I’ve been there out front with 200 to go, Frieberg came past me in the final a couple of years ago. So, you just have to keep going to the line, everyone is legless and somehow I’ve pulled it off.

"I actually messaged Kell O’Brien a couple of days ago, we’re good friends and he asked for some advice, I said ‘bad laps are just as important as your good laps’, and I had to bring everything out there because I had some shocking laps in there, I was hurting, but you never know what you can pull off."

Luke Durbridge:
"It was so stressful out there. We had a great situation early on and then all of a sudden it went arse up, and Plapp went and we though ‘oh no, this is a bad position’, so [sports director] Matt Wilson came up and said, ‘you’ve got to start riding’.

"I did one lap quite hard and they attacked me, but I just didn’t sit up, I just kept riding. It probably took me two laps to come back to the front and I eventually came back. It all came back on the last lap and it was just such a hard race.

"When I got back on, we didn’t even know we could possibly win it with a 100 metres to go really. He [Meyer] is a classy bike rider, I love riding for the guy and the guys rode really well and we did it.

"We just didn’t know we had it won, we never gave up, that’s the biggest thing we stand for in this team, we just never give up, we just keep coming back, keep coming back, keep fighting, that’s what we did today."

Australian Road Race Championships 2021 – Results:
1. Cameron Meyer (Team BikeExchange) 4:39:12
2. Kelland O’Brien (Inform TMX MAKE) +0:00
3. Scott Bowden (Tasmanian Institute of Sport) +0:00
7. Luke Durbridge (Team BikeExchange) +0:04

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